A German citizen accused of defrauding investors of $4 billion by selling a fake cryptocurrency called OneCoin has been added to the FBI’s list of its ten most wanted fugitives, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Ruja Ignatova, also known as “Cryptoqueen”, was charged in 2019 with eight counts, including wire fraud and securities fraud, for running Bulgaria-based OneCoin Ltd as a pyramid scheme . Prosecutors say the company offered commissions to members to entice others into buying worthless cryptocurrency.
“She timed her scheme perfectly, capitalizing on the frenetic speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency,” said Damian Williams, Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor.
Williams described OneCoin as “one of the greatest Ponzi schemes in history”.
Ignatova disappeared in late 2017 after bugging an apartment belonging to her American boyfriend and learning he was cooperating with an FBI investigation into OneCoin, Williams said. She boarded a flight from Bulgaria to Greece and has not been seen since, he said.
The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to Ignatova’s capture, said Michael Driscoll, deputy director of the FBI in New York.
Driscoll declined to comment on any leads on Ignatova’s whereabouts. The bureau adds fugitives to its most wanted list when it thinks the public may be able to help locate suspects.
“She left with a huge amount of money,” Driscoll told reporters. “Money can buy a lot of friends, and I imagine she benefits from that.”
Ignatova was charged alongside Mark Scott, a former corporate lawyer who prosecutors say laundered around $400 million for OneCoin. Scott was convicted of conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to commit bank fraud following a three-week trial in Manhattan federal court.